Monday, March 30, 2015

HE FIXED THE MATCH SHE FIXED HIM by Shikha: Why doesn’t Revenge Go Well with a Good Marriage?

If you were given a chance to write a love story, would you ever worry about the formula of a successful love story? A chance being “given” indicates a second individual or source involved with your writing process. Be that source the universal Creative Source. Would you care requesting the Creative Source of all being the formula for a successful romance novel? It seems someone has done just that. In her debut book itself, a contemporary romance titled He Fixed the Match She Fixed Him, Shikha proves that her writing skill is par excellence.

Shikha Kumar has a B-Tech degree in Computer Science from Bharati Vidyapeeth, Delhi. She works as a manager with Tata consultancy services. Having been able to travel a lot, in and out of the country, author Shikha seems to have acquired a skill to get into the psyche of her characters and create dramatic scenes through their interactions. It’s indeed true that journeys teach us great wisdom. In her deep understanding of the human mind, which comes naturally to this young author, she carves for herself a space that is not quite likely available for others who work in the same genre. He Fixed the Match She Fixed Him, could be included under genres such as chick lit and contemporary romance in the Indian Writings in English category.
Author Shikha Kumar: Image Courtesy: Google

What fascinates the reader in He Fixed the Match She Fixed Him is the freshness of the narrative voice. Her sentences are straightforward, without any unnecessary ornamentation. This writing technique drives the story right into the heart of the reader, like a spear. In this act a book is truly born, like they say in Reader Response theory. Shreya and Kunal are the protagonists of He Fixed the Match She Fixed Him. Shreya is a “highly qualified Delhi girl”. Kunal is the owner of a textile company in Mumbai.

Imagine a circus where every performer is born and brought up since one’s birth. A world exists outside of their circussy universe. How could the performers, born and brought up inside the rules and regulations of the circus-world embrace the world outside without feeling the corollary guilt that follows any act of breaking away from one’s immediate habitat? Just like this imaginary circus world, every one of us is conditioned to behave and believe in certain ways dictated by our surrounding habitat. For Shreya and Kunal, their culture has a certain plan, much like any other young person living in India—arranged marriage. Like the performers who are born and brought up inside a circus world, Shreya and Kunal play by the rules bestowed upon them by virtue of their birth. Each of them accepts the proposal suggested by their parents. The title, He Fixed the Match She Fixed Him also suggests the conspicuous absence of an authorial presence that holds the key at the centre of the familial power structure. Who decides who must be the “match” is the real question, not who gives the final consent, for the final consent is just a namesake. In the Indian wedding scene, often boy or girl is asked their consent at the cost of risking their elders’ wrath. Therefore, most of them remain silent in the fear of inviting the anger of some distant uncle or aunt.
 
Shikha/ Image Courtesy: The Hindu.com
The story takes a decisive turn when Kunal realizes that he had met Shreya before and that he had a “vendetta to settle” with her. Shreya is clueless of this plan in the inner depth of Kunal’s consciousness. Vengeance penetrates every act of Kunal and finally the inevitable happens.

In a heart-warming twist, Kunal realizes his infinite love for his wife. This forces him to confess his sins in front of his mother. It is surprising how he feels incapable of revealing his heart in front of his wife (or rather ex-wife). This, however, seems a futile act, as he had already created a chasm of separation between his wife and himself. Redemption seems unattainable. Perhaps, it would have been easier for him to go through the revenge if there were no marital bond between the two. He Fixed the Match She Fixed Him poignantly conveys the truth about revenge in a marriage where love has made its entry possible. Author Shikha, through He Fixed the Match She Fixed Him underscores that only love can hold families together and not mere arrangement.

With an arranged marriage in the backdrop, author Shikha demonstrates that love is the key to unlock the door to happiness. Often love stories in India end up on the wedding day. He Fixed the Match She Fixed Him begins there. In this sense, author Shikha Kumar’s debut attempt as an author can be called a trendsetter.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

RAMAYANA: THE GAME OF LIFE - BOOK 2 (Shattered Dreams)

We left twentieth century, almost ten years ago. However, we are not that far away from it yet, as much as that if one wills a good peek into the past century, it could still be a possibility. What if we are given the gift of glancing backward in time? Would we learn new lessons? Would we unlearn what we learnt wrongly? We know clearly that this is not a real possibility. Perhaps, there is one thing we can still long for: reading a book from a time that has no longer the possibility of making available its own unblurred image through the mist of time.

What if we are given a book from another time, another India, that was the abode to some of the most amazing rishis and thinkers, who created art and literature unparallel to our contemporary standards? Wouldn’t that be a great experience? Yes, I’d say. I’d certainly grab the chance on the very first time itself, because missing such a chance to read and learn from one of those amazing books written in the ancient India seems foolish. I am referring to Ramayana, a magnificent volume of epic written by Valmiki in verse form.

Shubha Vilas. Image Courtesy: Google
Shubha Vilas has written a book that is as much about Ramayana as it is Ramayana itself, re-narrated for a ‘new’ India. A motivational speaker and spiritual seeker, Shubha Vilas, is the author of Ramayana: The Game of Life, a spiritual and motivational series. The second book in this series is titled Shattered Dreams. The book re-presents the grand story of Rama as told in the original Ramayana, with a contemporary and relevant attitude. At each juncture, Shubha Vilas pauses to ask questions about life and its choices, and nudge the reader into a state of learning and spiritual awareness through the test and tribulations that appear in the life of Rama, the protagonist.  

“To bring a chicken out of an egg, one only needs to wait. Similarly, destiny unfolds itself on its own accord,” says the footnote that decorates the purpose of the book during a conversation between Lakshmana and Rama. Through the story of Rama, of how a young prince followed his Dharma that was laid down by his father in front of him, the author narrates techniques that anyone from the twenty-first century can master and practice in order to achieve ethical enlightenment. In this aspect, the book appears to be a guide for ethics and morality. The first volume to Shattered Dreams is a national bestseller titled Rise of the Sun Prince.

At the end of Book 1 Rama and Sita are married. Book 2 is the story of the exile of Rama, who, because of a conspiracy, had to abandon his kingdom and lead a life of hardships. Moreover, one could observe a self-imposition in Rama’s action, as he chooses exile rather than denigrating his father’s vow with Keikeyi, one of his father’s wives and the mother of Bharata and Shatrughna.

Image Courtesy: Google
Although Keikeyi is a major contributor to the conspiracy that sends Rama into the forest for exile, she does it for her son Bharata’s career. If Rama were present in the palace, he would be the next king. So in the exile of Rama has the solution for Keikeyi, in making her son the next king. Still, one could observe height of personal integrity and justice in the very own son of Keikeyi.

Bharata says to Shatrughna, his brother, “Just see how much harm Keikeyi has done. The kingdom without a king is like a stray boat without a rudder.”

In a world where power and influence has become the markers of individual success, such characters, and the stories in which they are portrayed become signs of spiritually fulfilling and meaningful growth. Ramayana: The Game Of Life—Book 2 (Shattered Dreams) also reminds us of a turning point in Indian publishing industry. Once in India, books with religious characters, or characters from religious mythology were very rare. Bestselling author of the Siva trilogy, Amish Tripathi, remarked in one of the interviews about his early attempts to publish his first book that all publishers turned his book down saying that a book with a mythological and religious figure like Siva just wouldn’t fit the standards of publishing industry. Everyone knows what happened to the book though. The ‘standard’ has been reset, if there ever was one.

Ramayana: The Game of Life—Book 2 (Shattered Dreams) is not entirely a work of fiction. Just like in my book, Prabuddha: The Clear-Sighted, in which I tried to convey spiritual and philosophical values through stories, Shubha Vilas attempts to bring forth age-old and relevant wisdom of the Ramayana through this new book. Shattered Dreams would offer you the story of Rama, the benevolent and the just, and also would walk you through the light shed through the majestic personality of this great man. Through this volume, one gains the perspective not just through the chaos of twentieth century, but what lies before it. Who wouldn’t want to see what values went into the making of this 5000-year-old civilization that we call India?

If you are not familiar with the story of Rama, you may also learn toward the end of the book what a pair of sandals can do to change the way one looks at power. What better gifts of wisdom could there ever be in a book than changing the way one looks at the things around.        
          
Ramayana: The Game of Life - Book 2 (Shattered Dreams) is published by Jaico Publishing, and is available everywhere books are sold.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Monday, March 16, 2015

ANCIENT PROMISES BY JAISHREE MISRA: Janu and Arjun

Jaishree Misra Image Courtesy: www.thehindu.com
Ancient Promises is Jaishree Misra's debut book with a fresh narrative voice in comparison with the other novelists of her time.

An unforgettable story, told in first person narrative, Ancient Promises combines in its narrative strategy, romance, myth and social criticism. Jane Austen succeeded in bringing irony in her novels, through interesting and poignant observations, which were most often witty as well. Taking the same line of novel-writing strategy, Jaishree Misra gives opportunity for readers to enjoy the book in multiple perspectives than just a single faceted love story.

Of course, Janu, the protagonist is the narrator and this is her story. However, this is also the story of Kerala and its marriage customs. Many irrational and unjust customs still exist in this southern land situated in India's south. Many European cultures have established trade relations with Kerala, even before the time of the British. But in the long run, it can also be observed that the nature of how people behave, the prying and gossiping and backbiting didn't change at all. Neither had any change visited the sad countenance of Kerala's narrow minded "arranged marriage" custom.

Image Courtesy: Google
It is because of these unique views that the novel upholds, that I recommend you the book. With her lucid and playful language, Misra creates a sea of emotions and the reader can easily establish personal harmonies with her characters and events. In the afterword to Ancient Promises, Jaishree Misra says that the novel is partly autobiographical. However, there surely is fiction as a binding force that connects each and every element from the painful world of reality. Janu loses her first great love and is forced to marry a business person. Her marriage brings her only heart-break and agony. Her in-laws and husband, who her parents have selected for her, "carefully", ignores her very being and forces her to the background of the dignified Maraar family.

Living in the murky backyard of a marriage gone stale, Janu wonders, “Wasn’t it merely arrogance to think that we could take matters into our own hands? To take over the writing of our own stories.” (236) A sense of indifference grows on her being, and her own sense of purpose becomes unfamiliar and uncomfortable to her. Janu’s image is that of a helpless Indian woman unable to help herself or her dignity, trapped in a subtle web woven by the culture, religion, and a relentless totalitarianism of moral principles.    

Janu could not hold the glory of the Maraar household because during one of her visits to Delhi, the city in which she grew up, although her parents were from Kerala, she meets her old love, Arjun. Janu's life takes a new turn and her decision to leave her husband strengthens. Still, Janu faces another crucial problem; Riya. Janu's baby girl, Riya has learning disabilities and a child like Riya would not have a smooth life without Janu's careful nursing.

Torn among these people, will Janu be able to find the courage to say "yes," to life? Ancient Promises is a journey into the mind of Janu through her teenage and years after an arranged marriage that goes terribly wrong.

Ancient Promises by Jaishree Misra was tremendously enjoyable, though, of course, there is pain that comes along with the joy of seeing a life unfold. Perhaps, that is the way it must be, as if ancient promises fulfilled now.
        

Saturday, March 14, 2015

THREE TOPICS, BLOGGERS MUST AVOID

A short story written by Mr. Stephen King tells us about a Milkman who leaves cartons full of poisonous cyanide gas in the morning. You might deny the ‘reality’ in the story arguing that the story borders fantasy. The reputation of the author goes beyond any possible conviction that could be attached with the words written by this ordinary blogger. I am fully aware of it. However, I would like you to ponder this small piece of sadism that the Milkman plays with the people in a small town as a probable scenario. At one point, he even puts a tarantula in an empty milk jar and leaves it for someone to open.

Many proper nouns that exist in our world, at our time, are much like the bottles left by the milkman, early in that summer morning in Stephen King’s story. Today, our proper nouns are eerily similar in their capacity to poison us or to damage us. Well, it surely depends on whether we open the cap on those bottles.

There could be two options here. One can get into a smooth cultural interaction with a people and thereby benefit from them, if one uses their cultural and political “names” with respect and reverence, by not inviting their poisonous inner-substances to spill forth. This matters in certain situations mostly, when one expresses one view or idea or even while being judgmental over the proper noun under discussion. In other words, coming to terms with the poison. Option number two: kill or be killed.  

Image Courtesy: www.ew.com
Some proper nouns create deeper wounds than others do. The name of a religion and the names of a writer who wrote about that religion are examples.

If you haven’t read my previous blog post, I’d strongly recommend you to take a look at it. Here is the link. It will show you how a blogger is imprisoned and flogged just because he felt responsible enough to write about what was just to his conscience.

Avijit Roy, an American citizen and atheist blogger is murdered in Bangladesh, within two weeks of the release of my article about Raif Badawi in my blog. The milkman’s poisonous bottles are an apt analogy to use in order to put these recent events into a new perspective. These two events in our recent and fresh memory cry out to each one of us to remember what another author, one with several literati credentials, Mr. Salman Rushdie faced in relation to publishing a book. Therefore, we must not view the present events in isolation, these threats, and killings being a nasty strategy employed by some twenty-first century barbarians.  

One reason that I enjoy blogging is the availability of the opportunity to share my responses over the good and the bad experiences in life. Sharing is one way of re-experiencing an event and learning further through this process. This is why, I believe, most bloggers press on even after receiving threats or legal charges. This is why, perhaps, Raif Badawi went on with his blogging efforts against a culture from within that same culture and eventually had to face flogging and jail terms. Avijit Roy, however, was killed. The causes and the perpetrators have striking similarities in both cases. I would not like to recant the proper nouns associated with both these events, on this platform, due to, of course, fear for my life. Many media have already denounced and denigrated the perpetrators of these crimes against free speech.

I have identified three topics that bloggers from any country of culture must avoid in order to retain their physical shape and health.

               1) A particular religion                     2)Political parties                                            3) Rape victims in India

I have already given you enough hints on why one must avoid blogging about the first two issues. Well, on politics we haven’t had much discussion yet. But I think that is understandable since nowadays religion and politics, or perhaps, certain power-hungry religious orders are always on the political forefront. Moreover, the question stands, does any idea have existence outside of politics, the grand circle that connects and assimilates all?
Image Courtesy: Google

Rape victims in India are the latest trend in testing the temerity of free speech. If you would like to test your ability for practicing free speech (well, the only ability required is sheer courage, for that matter) try writing about the Delhi rape victim or interview her molesters. Publish your article or video in your blog. The next thing you know, they would ban your blog, video or even documentary. This is exactly what happened with BBC, a very small sort of international ‘blogger’. If you could see the sarcasm here, not just in my words, but also in the unfolding of these decisive events of history, you are saved from what follows next: ethical dilemma.
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